Shifting regional alliances, spurred by Europe’s economic adversity and the spread of radical Islam across Africa, has created a window of opportunity for Israel to reengage with a host of emerging African nations.
Last week, Africa’s Voices in Israel, a grassroots effort spun off from the successful America’s Voices in Israel organization (part of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations), invited six Central Bank governors from various African nations to Israel in an effort to forge closer economic ties between Israel and emerging African countries. The inaugural Africa’s Voices in Israel mission was led by prominent New York businessman Michael Landau and sponsored by the IDT Corporation.
During a meeting with Israel’s deputy minister of Finance, Yitzhak Cohen, Professor Martin Dlamini, Central Bank governor of Swaziland, encouraged ongoing cooperation between Israel and Africa. “As we are an agriculturally dependent economy, it is important for us to meet with agricultural innovators in Israel and businesspeople who would be willing to invest in developing our agricultural market,” said Dlamini. “Therefore, I am grateful to have received this invitation from Africa’s Voices in Israel to strengthen the relationship between Israel, Swaziland and my African colleagues, by creating grassroots efforts in the fields of agriculture and finance.”
Professor Eugene Kandel, head of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s National Economic Council, told the group, “Israel has a track record of overcoming adversity and turning it into opportunity. We are a perfect model for developing countries in the areas of agriculture, banking security, and water technology. We see Africa as a strategic opportunity for Israel.”
Netanyahu’s senior adviser, Ron Dermer, said, “We sincerely hope that this mission will help forge a new set of alliances between Israel and Africa. The prime minister believes that the time has come for Israel to invest in developing financial, political and security relationships with the African continent. For banks in emerging nations, our expertise in cyber security will allow you [African banks] to make a critical financial jump forward, while protecting your banking assets against cyber attacks.”
The Zambian-born Bank of Israel governor, Stanley Fischer, who has maintained a longstanding friendship with Professor Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, governor of the Bank of Uganda, explained that Israel has yielded consistent positive economic growth – at a time when Europe and the U.S. have experienced recessions. “We are here to listen and offer our friendly advice to your banking systems, based on our various experiences,” said Fischer.
Tumusiime-Mutebile told Fischer that it was in Uganda’s interest that Israel and Uganda expand their cooperation in the banking, financial and agricultural arenas. Tumusiime-Mutebile is especially keen on working with Israel’s Volcani Institute of Agricultural Research, whose cutting-edge scientists showed him how to maximize the country’s crop yields through advanced agricultural technologies. This would enable Uganda to feed more people, while saving the country significant amounts of money.
Landau, the New York businessman and mission leader, told The Jewish Press, “These encounters enable Africa’s Voices in Israel to foment a variety of important agricultural, business and financial opportunities for emerging African nations who wish to tap into Israel’s unique experiences. We expect that this mission will spur larger delegations of financial and business officials from countries across Africa to come aboard and create important bonds between Israel and their governments.”